Nebraska Press Ass'n v. Stuart

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In Nebraska Press Ass'n v. Stuart, 427 U.S. 539, 559 (1976), the U.S. Supreme Court held that "[p]rior restraints on speech and publication are the most serious and the least tolerable infringement on First Amendment rights."

In this decision the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a Nebraska court order that had gagged (silenced) the press against reporting on a sensational murder in a small town. The Nebraska court had muzzled the press to try to ensure a fair trial for the defendant.

The U.S. Supreme Court, in an opinion written by Chief Justice Warren Burger, allowed that some restraints on the press may be allowed, but typically they are invalid:

We reaffirm that the guarantees of freedom of expression are not an absolute prohibition under all circumstances, but the barriers to prior restraint remain high and the presumption against its use continues intact. We hold that, with respect to the order entered in this case prohibiting reporting or commentary on judicial proceedings held in public, the barriers have not been overcome; to the extent that this order restrained publication of such material, it is clearly invalid. To the extent that it prohibited publication based on information gained from other sources, we conclude that the heavy burden imposed as a condition to securing a prior restraint was not met and the judgment of the Nebraska Supreme Court is therefore Reversed.